Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas 2012 - business as usual?

So how was it for you? I hope the festivities went well and you had a happy time with friends and/or family. My day started well – just the way I like it – some peace and quiet before the hoards arrived. The halls were decked, table was looking beautiful – fitting of any stylish home magazine, the log fire burning, carols playing, turkey safely nestling in the oven as I prepared the vegetables.

And then disaster struck. Careless as ever, and not concentrating on the task - and sharp knife - in hand, I managed to gauge a deep wound between my thumb and forefinger. Ow! And then the blood started to flow. And flow. And flow some more. As various scenarios played in my mind, typically more worried about the mountains of food that threatened to spoil rather than the injury temporarily slowing me down, I suddenly realised that wasn’t sure what to do next. I knew this wasn’t a 999 (or on the US, 911) job. My life wasn’t hanging in the balance, but I did have an injury that may need medical attention. Should I go to casualty (emergency room)? I seemed to remember that my local Accident and Emergency unit was closed and I thought I knew where the nearest one was. But I also had a vague recollection of a leaflet coming through my letterbox mentioning a minor injuries centre that had recently been opened. But where was it? Was it open on bank holidays? Should I ring NHS direct – the free health information line? But where was the  number for that? Or how about my GP out of hours service? Where was that damned leaflet?

Luckily by the time all options had been fairly unsuccessfully explored, vast amounts of kitchen roll and pressure stemmed the flow and the mini crisis over.

But now as I reflect on these events on Boxing Day I realise several points. Yes, I must be careful with sharp implements. But as importantly – how come a healthcare geek like moi, who professes to live and breathe the business of health – failed so miserably to understand my local health services? Some quick research on line demonstrated that it is easier to find out where to recycle my Christmas tree (2 clicks) than to find out where to go with a bad cut (7 clicks and to be honest I’m still not clear and I still don’t know if it’s open 24/7). One thing is clear – the NHS needs to up its game on the information stakes. Minor injuries services are only effective if people know how to access them.

One thing I didn’t have to worry about was ’where’s my credit card? will my insurance cover the bill?’ I knew that if I needed it and once I could find it, the treatment would be available at no direct cost. The NHS is still ‘free at the point of delivery’ and this is something we should continue to cherish as another stressful year in healthcare draws to a close. Some things never change, the concept is still great, the majority of services excellent but stratgey and clarity still lacking.

And the leaflet? I found it wedged between two books ‘Excel for Dummies’ and ‘Communicating Effectively’. Go figure….



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